Crops and animals that are being intentionally raised live within a web of other living organisms. Beneficial organisms are quite diverse, and include pollinators, earthworms, and predators of pests. Pests are also quite diverse and include insects, pathogens, weeds, and rodents.
Over the last century, conventional agricultural systems have become highly dependent on exogenous inputs and management to provide pest control and substitute for services provided by beneficial organisms. Contributing factors include changes in scale (e.g. large fields of one crop), loss of temporal diversity (e.g. continuous wheat production), advancing chemistry, and introduction of exotic insects, pathogens, and weeds.
This area of work develops knowledge and biologically-based strategies that can cultivate and harness ecological options. It also includes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies that reduce reliance on synthetic pesticides for pest management by integrating biological, physical, and chemical pest control practices. Finally, some of this work focuses specifically on approaches that are allowable for use on organic farms.